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By midlandsmovies, Aug 16 2019 02:39PM

Review - Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (2019) Dir. Quentin Tarantino

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a new film fable from Quentin Tarantino which harks back to a Hollywood cinema golden age yet mixes the loss of 50s innocence with 60s counter culture in the pulp-way only he knows how to.

Tarantino launches us into his screen obsessions (and in this film in particular, his love for the small screen) with a 4:3 black and white interview of TV Western star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his friend/stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).

Jumping forward to 1969 L.A. Dalton is concerned about his less-than-stellar career as the up and coming actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) moves in next door to him with her director partner Roman Polanski. Whilst the paranoid Dalton meets with agent Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) who encourages him to get into Italian Westerns, the laid-back Booth reminisces about a time he fought Bruce Lee whilst also meandering around town as a handyman seemingly without a care.

The Bruce Lee fight is one of the many comedic scenes and Tarantino’s fingerprints are all over the film which acts like a highlight reel of all his usual obsessions – Westerns (Django), martial arts (Kill Bill) and hippies and stunt-men (Death Proof) to mention just a few. But at 161 minutes oh boy is it long again, but at least it doesn’t take place in just one room like the disappointing chamber piece that was The Hateful Eight (our review).

As Rick Dalton tries his best to stake a claim in the movie world in Italy, Booth is enamoured by a hitchhiking hippie who takes him to the Spahn Ranch – the real-life desert commune location of the Manson Family cult. Radicalized by leader Charles Manson's teachings and unconventional lifestyle, Tarantino has brawly Brad searching for the ranch’s owner in one of the film’s best scenes. With tension and fear the director surprises the audience with the scene’s reveal whilst he returns with a violent ending typical of the director.

Tarantino also expertly plays with the medium of cinema too. We begin by watching the making-of a movie, but it literally becomes the movie in the absence of the film-crew and behind-the-scenes tech guys. But they are soon brought back in by Tarantino as he moves his camera back into place for a second take. And archive footage is mixed in with his usual eclectic soundtrack which feature classic hits from the era whilst almost 2 hours in, he decides to throw in a voiceover for good measure. Why not!

Perhaps the only director today to get away with such arrogant shifts in style, the film is so well made you can’t stop from watching – whether it be a slow-paced scene of Dalton reading a book, an elongated scene of Pitt making dinner for his narratively-important dog or the visually stunning shots of classic cars in the sun-drenched valleys.

And of course it is "about" the movies and history too. As Sharon Tate heads to a theatre to watch her own feature film, Margot Robbie is given few lines of dialogue but this gives power to her happy demeanour and innocent goldilocks which contrast with the audience expectations of the real-life tragedy that befalls her.

But as the film comes to its conclusion – Dalton has some mild success in Italy and returns with a new wife and Booth is let go as his odd-job man – four of the Manson Family members head to the Hollywood Hills preparing to murder these rich “piggies” of the motion pictures.

Tarantino plays upon the audience’s knowledge of the Sharon Tate case and yet like the best fairy tales of yore, he delivers a dream-like ending where the damsel in distress and wicked wolves (not Mr. Wolf) clichés are turned on their head.

The director throws everything into the flick where our focus on the real-life cursed heroine is actually sidelined by the enchanting performances of the fictional characters played by Pitt and DiCaprio.

Where fact and fiction blur, the film uses a terrific cameo by Damian Lewis as an uncanny Steve McQueen at the Playboy Mansion to continue with the real-life people in fictional set-ups. Excellent support also comes from Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern and the late Luke Perry as well as Tarantino regulars Kurt Russell and Zoë Bell (as stunt coordinators, what else) and Michael Madsen.

But does anyone live happily ever after? Well although there are no glass slippers, there are LOTS of shots of feet, Tarantino’s favourite fetish. But the film’s resolution is the really satisfying surprise here. Known for his love of violence it’s strange that although there is a very uncompromising finale, it may just be his most uplifting ending yet – providing a little bit of lost Hollywood hope.

Far better than his last film, yet not quite hitting the heights of a Django Unchained or Jackie Brown, the film demonstrates that Tarantino truly is in a class of his own in a period where franchise building has mostly replaced the draw of the big-named actor. But this incredibly satisfying love letter to these fictional pulp princes and real-life silver screen starlets provides a brilliant fantasy romance steeped in the glow of an era long gone.

Helter Skelter in a summer swelter indeed.

★★★★ ½

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Sep 17 2018 08:29AM

Midlands Review - Vigilante Style (2018)

Dir. Edward James Smith

A Pictured Visions Production

Vigilante Style is a new independent feature film written, directed and starring regional filmmaker Edward James Smith. Starting out as a short film all the way back in 2013, the filmmaker developed sequences over many years which eventually became this feature-length production.

The film begins with the “Our Feature Presentation” logo from Tarantino’s Kill Bill and Grindhouse and this ‘Funky Fanfare’ combined with a fast-paced montage a la Guy Ritchie hints where the filmmaker’s influences lie.

It starts by using voiceover as it flashes backwards and forwards in time concerning events from 10 years ago and how they affect the present. Vigilante Gilmer Diamond (Edward James Smith himself) is captured by Alex Steele (Jon Peet) and with revenge on almost everyone’s mind and a wide set of criminal characters, the movie tries to balance multiple story threads in a seedy tale of deception.

However, that is easier said than done. Characters are not fully introduced or fleshed out and the story becomes a mix of confusing tales all explained using expositional dialogue.

And it’s unfortunate as the dialogue is one of the problems here owing to a sound mix that varies so wildly it’s difficult to concentrate on the matters on screen. With amazing HD cameras available, it’s such a shame to see a film with a lot of potential undermine itself with poorly recorded audio. And although the acting verges on being suitably over the top, all the performances are undercut by that poor audio production.

As characters get their comeuppance and gangs cross-paths with each other, we see an increase in violence with fights, shootouts and even a cricket bat making an appearance. Because it was filmed over many years (it was one of our first blogs back in 2014), maybe the filmmaker’s focus changed and so the movie’s broken narrative reflects those altered ambitions.

I enjoyed the Leicester locations of my home town and it was great to see the filmmakers utilise so many varied buildings and streets around the city to keep a variety to the proceedings. Yet filming around the city exacerbates the sound issues with city traffic, background hums and windy alleys all causing their own issues.

Smith throws in a lot of varied techniques in his fast-paced film though. Voice-over, freeze frames and subtitles are added to his guerrilla filmmaking style and the use of chapter titles again show a nod to Tarantino. Yet the good editing is undermined by a lack of cinematography as a huge percentage of the film looks like mobile-phone footage at times.

But in reality it keeps coming back to sound – at times a decent soundtrack is used from artists like Suicide Bees, Blake J. Carpenter and Soul Release – but the dialogue and conversations need much more work. Better mixing and some ADR would go a long way – especially with the voiceover – and improve the viewing experience 10-fold.

Clearly a passion project, it has the vibe and seemingly the budget of a student film and it wears its b-movie credentials proudly on its sleeves. In many respects it seems more like a film that was good fun to make and I admired the passion of a group of friends getting a project together. However, willing friends doing you a lot of favours is one thing, trying to pull it together over a number of years is another.

And so, although it’s all undertaken with a lot of devotion you just have to try and ignore the lack of technical expertise. A number of different quality issues – some sections underlit, others overlit – continue to show a lack of consistency and ultimately it pays the price of its cheap shortcuts.

Maybe it’s a case of running before it can walk. Vigilante Style has flashes of editing and story proficiency but they are drowned out by some sloppiness and that one fatal flaw I keep coming back to – the sound and its design.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, even with a low budget a filmmaker needs to know what their budget is, and of course the limitations that brings. It’s a badge of honour to say you’ve made a feature film but sometimes the filmmaker is stretching that little bit too far with the resources at hand.

Expanding what I would imagine was an inventive short into a full feature is no easy task and Vigilante Style shows that good intentions can only go so far with a passionate but slapdash approach. More Neil Breen than David Lean, Smith has stretched a short concept to breaking point and only the most hardcore exploitation fans need apply.

Mike Sales

By midlandsmovies, Nov 26 2017 09:16PM

Grindhouse Planet Film Festival 2017

Still a young pretender on the Midlands circuit, the Grindhouse Planet Film Festival may have started small but has grown into a successful alternative to the mainstream regional showcases with its focus on the bloody and gruesome. Midlands Movies Mike heads to the home of horror for the second time for another dose of sleazy celluloid.

Now in its second year, the festival ran on 26th November with over 50 films being chosen to screen at Leicester city’s The Shed venue. With a cosy and friendly atmosphere the films comprised shorts and features from the local to the international whilst all the while maintaining its grass roots grime.

With a 48-hour film challenge and a question and answer session from filmmaker Steve Lawson, the event had a varying array of talented filmmakers and fans eager to see the nasty gems on offer.

The festival was spread over 10 hours and included such fan favourites as West Midlands zombie comedy Still, web-series sci-fi shocker The Rockman and dark drama All Bad Things.

Blood, guts, nudity, violence and laughs were all covered across the films and although Quentin Tarantino drew attention to the genre with his 2007 homage to the 70s double-features of his youth, it was great to see local filmmakers show their love for the exploitation movie tropes of the past as well.

Around the halfway mark, The Shed held host to a Q & A with Leicester filmmaker Steve Lawson of Creativ Studios. Having recently completed Hellriser (our coverage here) and a co-directing stint on short Time, and Again (review) the writer-director was happy to share his current experience with the passionate audience.

“Jumping from making my first film to working with distribution companies I realised very quickly you have to compromise a lot and change a lot of things but you cannot make films without producers”, explained Steve.

“After doing the low-budget Essex Heist which wasn’t a mega-seller but was distributed into Asda and other major retailers, other companies began taking my calls,” he joked. He went on to say: “My new film though is for Hereford Films (We Still Kill the Old Way) who are based in London. It’s a serious horror slightly away from the grindhouse style”.

Steve is a firm believer in filming efficiently which he says zero-budget filmmakers should have an understanding of - as whether you are making a £10,000 film or a £10 million film, filmmakers should prioritise the important business side of things. And with his career in full swing Steve gave some exclusive nuggets about his upcoming film.

“This new movie stars Shane Taylor from Band of Brothers as the lead and support comes from Rula Lenska who hasn’t made a film since Queen Kong. Actually I don’t know what I’m doing here as I start tomorrow at 9am and should be prepping!”

As well as Steve, we heard from Kelly McCormack who is heavily involved in the film-making scene in Leicester and beyond, and was down at The Shed supporting The Rockman (as associate producer) as well as Christmas based short The N0ughty List as a make-up artist.

“How did I jump from one to the other?” asks Kelly. “Well, they needed someone to put lots of fake blood on Santa and I had lots of fake blood”. Encapsulating the grindhouse spirit and community, Kelly feels the support from fans and filmmakers often help get these zero-budget films off the ground.

“I’ve been here most of the day and loved Charismata but the 48 hour film challenge was so good to watch to see what local people can do in a short time. Once you get a team that’s fully on board you know that it’s going to go mostly right with these mini-projects. Regarding the festival itself I was here last year but The Shed has had a refurbishment and the filmmaking community has had an even better atmosphere over the last 12 months so it’s made this year even more special”.

She adds that the spirit of genre film fans helps inspire others too. “There’s also a lot of networking going on and this is the type of festival where you can see people achieve whatever they set out to do. And we shouldn’t forget that big thanks should go to the organiser Marc Hamill as it’s been a really great day".

Another attendee was actor, filmmaker and grindhouse fan Ryan Flamson who starred as the main character for one of the entrants in the 48 hour film challenge.

“Well I starred as Coke-head the Clown [laughs] and it was a lot of fun and the short got a great crowd reaction. The turnout has been really good and the local talent is far better than people realise”.

Ryan adds, “People don’t always get the opportunity to showcase these types of films but Grindhouse Planet helps this and the quality of production is getting better and better. Especially with the budget limitations we all have”.

“Another thing is that people can come here to learn", says Ryan. "Steve Lawson gave a great Q & A about distribution and you can hear lots of feedback and get involved in networking too. I really loved The Killer Must Kill At Christmas from the 48-hour film challenge so recommend people go check that out”.

Check Ryan's recommendation below

With another successful year completed, the fans of saws, gore and more once again demonstrated their appreciation of all the talent on show and were buzzing to hear more about a third festival in 2018. Lets hope Marc and the team can grind out another successful full house of fright flicks next year. I'm almost certain he will.

Check out the official website here: http://www.grindhouseplanet.com

Check out The N0ughty List which is being shown before our own Batman Returns Christmas screening at Firebug in Leicester https://www.facebook.com/events/349772655487985/

By midlandsmovies, Jan 5 2016 02:34PM

The Hateful Eight (2016) Dir. Quentin Tarantino

Reservoir Dogs? Love. Kill Bill Vol 2? Hate. Inglorious Basterds? Meh. Django? Love. Jackie Brown? Solid. Death Proof? Hate. My love-hate relationship with Tarantino was established some time ago and for every film I consider a masterpiece there is an equal one which is a flawed indulgence. Not to say any of them aren’t interesting and there’s more in the awful Death Proof than some directors' entire careers. However, the only person who inspires such polar thoughts that comes to mind is Stanley Kubrick. I’ll leave which ones of his to another blog. So, where does The Hateful Eight appear on this spectrum?

Firstly, Tarantino harks back to a golden age of cinema and has shot the film in 70mm which is usually reserved for the epic and grand vistas of Lawrence of Arabia and Ben Hur. The opening shot from extreme close up to mountain range over 5 minutes shows that Tarantino has lost none of his nerve with the resurrected format. He challenges the audience with his decisions and simply says 'deal with it'. This opening leads to the set up where John "The Hangman" Ruth (played by a bearded and excellent Kurt Russell) is taking fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock where she will face the noose for her crimes. Along the way he picks up Samuel L Jackson’s Major Marquis Warren as well as Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) who join him along for the ride fighting the stormy winter. They end up at Minnie's Haberdashery where they cross paths with more mysterious characters who fill in their backstory. Slowly. Over 2 more hours.

And here we come to the first flaw. Tarantino’s direction (as always) is close to perfection. With a suitable Ennio Morricone score and the obligatory Chapter headings, it starts with all the quirky ingredients Tarantino likes to fill his icy boots with – the nods to past cinema, the screen titles and the mysterious characters. But as with Death Proof and Inglorious, the indulgence (which I admit is often part of his charm) is so overbearing that I wonder how he can drag such a slight narrative to a length of nearly 3 hours. The actors are superb though. Russell is all grizzled beard and suspicious like the great grandaddy to his role in “The Thing”, whilst Jackson chews up the scenery alongside Tarantino regulars Tim Roth and Michael Madsen. It’s just that despite the beginning being well constructed and the ending having an element of surprise, the middle is so meandering and dialogue heavy to the point of dulling the senses.

The cinematography is brilliant throughout with only Tarantino’s ego being able to sustain the idea of using 70mm to make a film that is almost entirely interiors (the stage coach then the lodge). This however enables the actors to mostly express in extreme close-up yet at the same time there is almost no shot without other character(s) in the background such is the extreme width of the lens. Pulling the audience ever closer to the octo-group and the suspected ulterior motives of each.

Tarantino torments the audience with an icy paranoia in this wintery location which is bloated and beautiful at the same time. Consistent it is not, but with some great performances – especially the bloodied and scarred Jennifer Jason Leigh – many will look past the film’s misgivings. But for me, the monologues are extended and lengthy even for this director. Although a tired and slightly trite Tarantino is still better than most, it's this ragtag band of unsympathetic and exposition-heavy characters that may be the most hated thing about it. Challenging in the right way it will leave many viewers cold and as a film in the career of Tarantino, I reckon it will be mostly lost to the wilderness.

7.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jan 17 2015 01:22PM

Midlands Movies Mike speaks to Boz Dimond about his upcoming short film Jinxed and his long relationship with the creative industries. Mike chats film, gangsters and more with the ambitious filmmaker...

Since heading to art college back in 1996, Boz Dimond always had an eye for detail and a passion for film. But unlike most conventional filmmakers, Boz never attended university or film school but had always felt an affinity to the industry and at the tender age of 17, penned his first screenplay.

After putting his pen to one side to focus on his passion for music, Boz spent the best part of 10 years creating tunes and developing his technical and musical skills but never lost interest in film.

Although a far off ambition back then and the prohibitive cost of movies still being shot on film – thus keeping it out of the realms of most regional artists - Boz then attended the Hay on Wye Film School where he met writer/director Bruce Robinson (Withnail & I, The Rum Diaries) and things finally changed.

Boz, forever a passionate film enthusiast, then found a natural move into filmmaking and used his passion for the alternative and love for both movies and music as a new playground as an emerging artist.

“I enjoyed Brotherhood of the Wolf and anything Tarantino does”, explains Boz now he has two short films under his belt.

“I am proud that Jinxed has become an official selection at the Beeston Film Festival in Nottingham whilst my other short, Our Hands Are Tied, is currently in post-production”,

Boz goes on to say,

He has also written his first feature called The Target which is currently in development with TestaRossa Productions. This spy thriller genre flick is set to be made in 2015-16 and Boz has many more ideas bubbling at his production company Diamond Flicks.

“I also have an idea for a character called Charlie Vegas who is one of the strongest characters I have written and I want to explore him in future projects inlcuding a film I penned called Villain. I would also love to go back to the old school British gangster movies like Get Carter and another film titled Villain which starred Richard Burton”.

“With their colourful language and strong stories, I see them as an antidote to the current crop of poorly made/acted straight-to-DVD crime films that are being made in the UK at the moment”.

With Jinxed being selected for inclusion in the Los Angeles Independent Film Awards, Boz is working with producer/editor Lawrence Donello (Trance, The Devil's Whispers) in making all his future projects a success.

Midlands Movies Mike

Find more about Boz and his films on the links below:



By midlandsmovies, Jul 12 2013 07:17AM

Features writer Gary Burbidge casts an eye over the heroic influences of the new Tarantino film due in 2012.

Upon the upcoming production of the new and eagerly awaited Tarantino presentation film and his take on The Spaghetti Western franchise, comes "Django Unchained". Something has to be mentioned on the legacy of this heroic and always mysterious character.

Appearing to be clocking up over 100 sequels under his belt stretching over four decades a lot has to be said and shed light on the original Django (1966) which the film opens with a mysterious figure in black dragging a coffin behind him approaching a rundown town which appears abandoned apart from a saloon. The original was banned in some countries upon release due to the many graphic scenes of violence portrayed. For Many other Django movies that came out of the result from this film feature a different story for the lone gunman and most have nothing to do with the original.

The closest that seems to come to an actual official sequel would appear 21 years later in 1987 featuring the original actor Franco Nero, entitled; "Django 2: Il Grande Ritorno" (The Great Return) aka "Django Strikes Again" directed by Sergio Corbucci, who directed the first film, and portrays an aged Django who has left his former life of violence behind only to find himself having to return back to the life he left behind. More recently in 2007 came a Japanese take on Django, entitled; "Sukiyaki Western Django" with actually stars Quentin Tarantino and this year’s Django: "Silver Bullets, Silver Dawn" which throws Vampires into the mix!

After all the history behind the Legend that is Django, Tarantino looks to certainly have his work cut out for him making his mark on this franchise next year, but looking back on films such as Robert Rodriguez's Desperado (1995) in-which co-stars Tarantino, and incorporates a modern day western type feel, if that has in any way, shape or form inspired Tarantino to make his mark on the western world then we may be in for a few surprises, not overlooking his golden touch on his past film presentations!

Almost leaning towards his love for Spaghetti Westerns with Ennio Morricone soundtrack scores in his later films, and lastly as you'd expect in a Tarantino film; an all star credited cast has been announced with familiar faces returning to the fold yet again to trademark his own legacy! The next chapter of this on-going western saga is set to see Django (played by Jamie Foxx) back at the helm in another story line to rescue the woman he loves.

Will Django live to face another day as his theme song suggests? The outcome awaits...

Midlands Movies Gary

By midlandsmovies, Jul 4 2013 05:18PM

For previous blogs about the rest of the Top 50 please click the links below:

• 50-41 – http://goo.gl/zUSxr

• 40-31 – http://goo.gl/7P7w2

• 30-21 – http://goo.gl/hAUvI

• 21-10 – http://goo.gl/adVo2

Well, you can see the list quickly below but now I can finally talk about some of the big surprises that missed out in our readers’ Top 50 films. Just missing out on the Top 50 were seasoned classics like Psycho, Titanic, Natural Born Killers, Gladiator, Singing in the Rain, Seven Samurai, The Terminator, There will be Blood, Silence of the Lambs, Taxi Driver, Chinatown and Seven whilst One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest received just 2 low-scoring votes from everyone. LA Confidential & Anchorman appeared a lot but their scores were too low across the submissions to be anywhere near the list sadly. More surprisingly only one vote EACH went to the following films: Citizen Kane, Heat, Some Like It Hot, Fargo, Eternal Sunshine, Schindler's List & JFK (both my own!), Memento, Amelie and Vertigo. In comparison, this was the same as The Muppets Christmas Carol, 27 Dresses & Hook! Unbelievable! Anyway, it’s finally here so please read below for the Midlands Movies Readers’ Top 10...

10. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Dir. Irvin Kershner

Not quite the highest placed sequel on the list but the film that had to follow the cultural phenomenon of the original by going darker and more intimate as Luke Skywalker begins his Jedi training with Dagobah-swamp creature Master Yoda before finding out some family secrets in the film’s infamous finale. A troubled production (Irvin Kershner would give direction to Yoda instead of Frank Oz by mistake) the film had a luke-warm (ahem) response when it was first released but with its character development, ingenious battle sequences and further probing into the power of the force, audience appreciation has increased over time and is now considered more thought provoking and satisfying than A New Hope.

9. Apocalypse Now (1979) Dir. Francis Ford Coppola

Coppola’s own journey through the jungle trying to complete this 70s war film was as much a struggle as his protagonist (Martin Sheen, who was also not spared as he had an infamous heart attack on set) who is tasked with tracking down Kurtz, an awol Colonel played by a bloated and bald Brando. Using rock and classical musical to accompany the horrors of hostilities, the film is the pinnacle of war allegory movies and the combat and questions raised are as relevant now as they were then. Although I am not fan of the film (especially the elongated REDUX which has ballooned like Brando), the film’s significance is undeniable from the making of the movie, through to the actors’ journey, the narrative and the multiple meanings of the gorgeous cinematography.

8. Django Unchained (2013) Dir. Quentin Tarantino

Only out this year, Tarantino’s western slave Django has escaped from his chains to a surprise high entry on Midlands’ movie-goers favourites with its blaxploitation vibe, (another) funky soundtrack picked by QT and great performances from Waltz (Oscar worthy), Foxx (badass) and DiCaprio (eviiiiiillllll). Despite a lengthy running time and (now obligatory but terrible)Tarantino cameo, it’s mixture of comedy, history and surprising amount of action makes me feel it that not only will it be appearing on many critics’ “Best of 2013” lists, but it will also be heralded a masterpiece for years to come.

7. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) Dir. Peter Jackson

For many, the Star Wars for a new generation as the story of a young Hobbit given a power to defeat an evil menace helped by a ragtag group of strange men and creatures had both a familiarity and “other worldly” vibe that audiences could relate to. Jackson’s spectacular visual imagery and roving camera gave the film a truly epic feel from the tight community of The Shire to the large battles. Containing one of my all time favourite sequences (entering the mines to the Balrog-Gandalf exit) the perfect balance of story, character, brilliant CGI and miniature use set up a story that would soon spawn even greater achievements like Gollum and the siege of Minas Tirith. The sequels may have won Jackson the Oscars but it required the most audacious opening to set the scene for the subsequent journey and the Fellowship showed how to do that without a fault.

6. Leon (1994) Dir. Luc Besson

Jean Reno plays the professional assassin protecting a young neighbour (Natalie Portman) after her parents are killed by corrupt policemen in this action-thriller from ‘94. With perennial scene-stealer Gary Oldman as the baddest of bad cops, Leon is a film that has both heart and horror with as many tender moments and growing pains as it has splatter, blood and bullets. The odd couple are perfectly cast and a series of brilliantly choreographed action scenes are balanced against the quieter personal moments. With European sensibilities, the film is less Hollywood-by-numbers and more of an intellectual tussle between action, character and the moral fibre of those around us.

5. Aliens (1986) Dir. James Cameron

THE highest placed sequel is this follow up to Scott’s space horror and Cameron gave the franchise a boost by subverting it into a Vietnam saga in space. After years in hypersleep, Ellen Ripley is thrown back into the bug hunt with an outfit of marines to see what has happened to the settlers on the planet the original xenomorph was found and with wise-cracks and military back packs, Cameron’s camera fizzles with excitement with slime and grime in every shot whilst there is action-a-plenty as the marines shoot everything in their sights. With Lance Henriksen brilliant as the ‘bot Bishop and a superb and eclectic ensemble cast, the movie was eventually nominated for seven Academy Awards, including a Best Actress nomination for Sigourney Weaver, the film’s ending featuring the Queen versus Ripley’s power-loader is one of the best bust-ups on screen.

4. Fight Club (1999) Dir. David Fincher

“Ban this sick filth” said the Daily Mail on the release of this film. Never has the point of a film been so greatly missed that to this day, the fighting is the thing viewers remember the least about it. From the snazzy camera moves and editing(all CGI, IKEA and “cock” insertions) to the expertly and explicitly written dialogue from the most unreliable of narrators, Fincher’s rug-pull is backed up by Pixies-infused post-masculine angst and Meat Loaf with tits. Pitt is as good as he ever was and Bonham-Carter made her career re-invention from Merchant Ivory lady to pasty gothic waif in just one movie. Pitch black humour combined with a great story, Fight Club shows how a film can be watched again and again making it a classic of modern cinema.

3. The Matrix (1999) Dir. The Waschowskis

“What is the matrix?” Well, to sum up the Waschowski’s brilliant bullet-time sci-fi magnum opus and how its modern reinvention of sci-fi, simulated reality and sentient machines couldn’t have been more on the movie-going pulse in 1999, consider this… Star Wars: The Phantom Menace also came out that same year. “Whoa”.

2. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) Dir. George Lucas

Despite the appreciation of its immediate successor, Lucas’ original Star Wars still commands a huge presence on the screen and although it is the shortest of the 6 franchise films, its classical boy-given-unwanted-challenge and powers narrative (Hobbit, Harry Potter, Matrix et al), wise old sage and meetings of Princesses and rogues along their journey, showed how Lucas took an established structure and transposed them to the galaxy far far away. Whilst adding an unforgettable musical score, brand new special effects and make up into the mix, Lucas’ characters were ones audiences could relate to, alongside the boo’s created during the presence of the best on-screen villain of all time. With a final climax that will echo in eternity, Star Wars is the childhood we can revisit again and again yet was sadly Lucas’ swansong in the franchise as he moved to bigger (but definitely not better) things. With this film we all wanted to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi....like our fathers.

And finally...

1. Pulp Fiction (1994) Dir. Quentin Tarantino

20 years old next year, time has been very kind to Quentin’s nonlinear tale of violent thugs and pop-culture dialogue and it’s easy to see why it’s Midlands Movies’ readers’ number one. Watching today you get both nostalgia AND a sense of modernism with possibly the coolest soundtrack alongside genuine great performances from Travolta, Jackson, Thurman, Keitel and Bruce Willis who I often forget is even in it! This neo-noir film essentially turned Tarantino from a wunderkind into the global phenomenon we know today and the film’s violence and drug references are so uniquely balanced with its humour and love of character that its unique style has been much imitated yet never bettered. We happy? Yeah, we happy.

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